Proposal helps vulnerable residents and boosts region’s economy
ROYAL OAK, Mich. – Leaders from Beaumont Health, which recently merged with Spectrum Health to become Corewell Health East, joined Henry Ford Health and Trinity Health on Tuesday to announce their support for the Oakland County Public Transportation Millage and highlight the vital importance of public transportation for the region.
The Nov. 8 ballot in Oakland County includes a critical public transportation millage proposal that would maintain, improve and expand upon SMART bus services in Oakland County, including transportation provided by SMART, Western Oakland Transportation Authority (WOTA), North Oakland Transportation Authority (NOTA) and Older Persons Commission (OPC).
“We all depend on someone who depends on public transportation,” said Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, President of Corewell Health East. “This important millage supports a critical service for our residents. The Oakland County Public Transportation Millage connects employers with employees, doctors to patients and businesses to customers.”
Thousands of seniors, veterans and people with disabilities in Oakland County depend on public transportation because they can no longer drive or afford a car. Low-income residents and working parents, along with essential workers also use transit services to get to critical jobs in our hospitals, grocery and retail stores, childcare and nursing home facilities in Oakland County.
Davison resident and Corewell Health environmental services employee Marteese Caston has ridden the SMART bus to and from work for 15 years. He is unable to drive due to vision problems created by diabetes and high blood pressure. Caston said he wouldn’t be able to live his daily life without SMART.
“There really wouldn’t be any means to get to work,” Caston said. “The bus really is essential. It helps me take care of my business, my life. It’s almost like I have a car I just have to wait for it.”
“Public transportation is imperative for a healthy Oakland County, and its availability is an important component in improving health equity,” said Denise Brooks-Williams, Senior Vice President and CEO of Market Operations at Henry Ford Health. “Hundreds of employees and patients we serve depend on local transit to get to work and access much-needed healthcare.”
Diane Tufts, a Royal Oak resident who has muscular dystrophy and is wheelchair-bound, has relied on SMART to get to and from work since 2011. She has worked at the Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak for 40 years, currently as a data analyst in the hospital’s nutrition services department. Tufts noted patients rely on hospital employees who rely on SMART to get to and from work.
“Nobody really knows how you get here,” Tufts said. “They’re not seeing the bus drop me off at the front door. It’s nice to know it’s out there because you never know when you’re going to need it. Who’s to say that suddenly you don’t have a spouse anymore who can’t drive you around or you yourself can no longer drive?”
“This is an affordable and transparent millage, which was placed on the Nov. 8 ballot with bipartisan support,” said Dave Woodward, Oakland County Commission Chair. “Public transportation is a vital component of thriving communities, and helps seniors, veterans, people with disabilities and so many others we rely on to keep our economy growing get where they need to go.”
Research shows public transportation helps boost the local economy. Every $1 invested in public transportation creates $4 in economic output by attracting new businesses and expanding the talent pool for local employers.
“This is a local, Oakland County solution to public transportation,” said Dave Coulter, Oakland County Executive. “This public transportation millage will replace the current SMART millage in Oakland County and allow us to expand services to connect residents throughout Oakland County. The average homeowner in Oakland County will pay just $9 a month to help vulnerable residents and boost our economy.”
Funding from the millage will be tracked publicly online to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and transparently, with 100% of funds generated staying in the county and subject to annual independent audits to promote fiscal responsibility.
To learn more about this critical public transportation millage proposal please visit www.yesoaklandtransit.com
Paid for with regulated funds by Oakland Transit Matters, 503 Poplar Ave., Royal Oak, MI 48073.